The "Monster Hunter" franchise's reach has always been limited in the United States. The series is a Pokémon-level phenomenon in its native Japan, but has only recently been upgraded from "obscure curio" to "cult hit" on this side of the Pacific. The real barrier between "MoHun" and Western success has been its lack of online play. Though every "Monster Hunter" can be played solo, it's impossible to access the game's best bits without other human players. Hardcore, grind-intensive, multiplayer action RPGs plain need an online option to find an audience in the United States.
"Monster Hunter Tri", the series' debut on Wii due out here in Spring 2010, will finally offer online multiplayer. Improving its chances of finding an audience even more is the fact that the game will completely circumvent Nintendo's notoriously awkward Friend Codes.
Capcom Community Specialist Shawn Baxter confirmed that, like the Japanese release of "Monster Hunter Tri", the US version will be hosted on Capcom-owned servers rather than Nintendo's. American players will be able to go online directly from the game's menu. Friend lists and other multiplayer information will be specific to "Monster Hunter Tri."
What hasn't been determined, though, is whether or not "Monster Hunter Tri" online play will be free. The game uses a pay-per-play model in Japan, requiring users to purchase Nintendo Points in exchange for weekly or monthly access. As of now, Capcom has yet to decide on whether or not online play in the North American edition of "Tri" will be free or what the pricing structure will be if they decide to keep the Japanese pay-per-play model. That decision may determine "Monster Hunter Tri"'s success when it release early next year.